Companies as we know them today were largely started from and based on two entities. The Hudson's Bay Company was into the business of fur trading and was founded in 1602. It grew to around 1,500 employees. The Dutch East India Company was into trade and was also founded in 1602, but grew to a massive size of around 50,000 employees and was the richest private company in the world. But whether we look at companies from a few hundreds years ago or today, there is one thing that always remained -- one assumption that up until now has remained unchallenged and untested. That assumption is that employees NEED to work at these organizations. In other words people have expenses, bills to pay, families to take care of, and purchases they want to make. The relationships between employees and companies have always been symbiotic and essential. People cannot survive without getting paid from the companies they work for and the companies cannot exist without having employees there to do the jobs required. However, organizations always had the upper hand because if an employee didn't want to do a job, someone else would. And so, this assumption that employees NEED to work at organizations has been the rule since the very first business was established.
One of the reasons why I am so excited about the future of work is this very assumption that employees need to work at an organization is being destroyed. The very core of how our organizations were able to exist is no longer there. Think about what that means. There was never much emphasis on engagement, ideation, creativity, passion, workplace design, or any of the things that many companies around the world today are exploring. There was no reason for it because employees had no say in the matter -- they needed the jobs and so the company could do whatever it wanted. However, the landscape we are working and living in today is dramatically different. People can drive cars for Uber or Lyft; create profiles on sites such as Elance-Odesk or Freelancer.com; create products and sell them directly to consumers through sites like Etsy; rent out their homes on Airbnb; raise money on Indiegogo or Kickstarter; go work for a start-up (or start their own business); work for larger, more established organizations; or explore a number of other avenues.
The war for talent has never been greater than it is today. Not only are organizations competing against each other in a world where employees are constantly getting poached by recruiters sending them messages on Linkedin, but they are also competing against many of the other scenarios outlined above (and more which weren't included). Dan Pink said it best, "talented people need organizations far less than organizations need talented people."
So what does this mean for organizations today? It means that any organizations that wants to survive and thrive in the future of work must evolve their thinking. The future of work is about challenging that basic assumption and shifting away from an environment where organizations assume that people NEED to work there to creating an environment where people WANT to work there. It is because of this very reason that we are seeing flexible work programs being implemented; cool offices being designed; the abandoning of outdated management practices such as annual employee reviews; the addition of perks and benefits such as catered meals; the ability for employees to use their own technologies at work; investments in health and wellness; and the like. These aren't investments that companies are making just for fun. These are strategically calculated investments to help ensure the survival of these organizations.
On my Future of Work podcast, in my book on The Future of Work, and the Future of Work Community that I help run, I hear this echoed from some of the world's most forward thinking and progressive brands all over the world. The tables have turned and the world has shifted. Your organization is no longer a place that people NEED to work at -- it must become a place where people WANT to work at.
Jacob Morgan is a futurist, best-selling author and keynote speaker, learn more by visiting The Future Organization.com or check out his latest book,"The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders and Create a Competitive Organization," on Amazon.